Shiny Shelf


By Sarah Jane Vespertine on 01 April 2010

CastleTurn on your television at any time you please and you’ll find a crime series – at some hours, god knows you can find little else. They are, and always have been, everywhere.

The earliest fiction, both broadcast and literary, has been dominated by detectives, and a fascination with grizzly crime would seem to be part of our psyche. Be it the lure of the visceral, fear of our darkest impulses, the simple satisfaction of solving a puzzle, or the moral vindication of seeing justice be done; we love it, and the schedulers know we do.

So, do we really need another detective series? After all, you could spend your whole life watching ‘Murder She Wrote’, ‘Columbo’, and/or the thousand flavours of ‘CSI’ and ‘Law & Order’, and never, ever run out of episodes.

Well, yes, perhaps we do. ‘Castle’ may initially appear to be little more than a vanity vehicle for fangirl favourite Nathan Fillion of ‘Firefly’ fame, but it’s worth seeking out.

Whilst there’s nothing astonishingly fresh and new in the set up, characters or especially the plot lines, it does still have several things that have been missing from our screens – the foremost of them being an entertaining and intelligently written level of sexual tension between the two leads.

More so than in ‘Fringe’, or even in ‘Bones’, you know they are made for each other – and yet things just keep getting in their way, dammit! There are elements of the early series of ‘Moonlighting’ and even of ‘The X Files’(before it just got annoying, and then, frankly, weird) in the easy, playful chemistry between Katic and Fillion, and it really is the great strength of the series, and something you don’t realise you’ve missed watching, until you see it done so well.

Stana Katic as Detective Kate Beckett is attractive and engaging enough to hold her own against the force of nature playing the eponymous lead. As ever, Fillion plays Nathan Fillion, this time in the guise of millionaire crime writer Rick Castle; charmingly philanderous, bursting with charisma and always ready with a winning smile.

Both Castle and Beckett are gradually revealed to have enough quirks and backplot to step beyond their archetypes of Sassy but Straight-laced Ladycop and Smug but Sweet-natured Playboy, and Katic and Fillion are obviously having a great deal of fun playing them. Their interplay really is a delight, and smarter and more honest than the usual romantic dynamics of misunderstanding and idiotically unspoken feelings.

Of course, likeable leads and witty one-liners are not enough to sustain a whole series alone. Characterisation of the whole cast is neatly played, with the roles of Beckett’s two sidekicks, Ryan and Esposito, developing at a nice, subtle pace as the series progresses.

Castle’s home life with his actress mother and teenage daughter is sweet without becoming overly cloying (on the whole), and the differences between his world of comfort and fame and Beckett’s of work and death are well contrasted, with the appeal of each to the other easily inferred.

And the other great draw of ‘Castle’? It’s nice. Likeable characters and supportive relationships make sure everything works out each week. Bad Things happen, but much is implied rather than shown, avoiding the hyper-real grue that some police series revel in, yet still managing to be edgy enough to keep back the schmaltz. The balance of humour, tension and gore is expertly handled, and you come away from watching it feeling genuinely warm and satisfied. In many ways, it’s a tea and crumpets of a programme; just what you need at the end of a hard day.

All that said, some of the crimes aren’t as hard to solve as our team of experts make out, and occasionally they even fall into the bloody obvious camp (I have an ongoing theory that the guilty party is the first person they meet each episode with more than one line).

That Rick Castle is so wealthy that any plot problems can be solved by him throwing money at them can be a tiny bit irritating, but it does make a change from over-using loopholes and technobabble. You also have to wonder how long they can logically sustain Castle’s reason for getting to play at policeman, or his boyish enthusiasm for doing so. Perhaps they may even run out of genre homages to cunningly sneak into the episodes…

But, on the other hand, maybe they can keep all of this going, and Rick Castle will outlast Jessica Fletcher to become television’s favourite fictional crime-solving, crime-writing author. He’s a damn sight sexier than Angela Lansbury, after all.

Castle starts on Alibi on April 7th. You should watch it, because if it doesn’t irritate the hell out of you, you’ll love it.

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By Sarah Jane Vespertine

Sarah Jane Vespertine is a writer, occasional poet and freelance thinker. You can follow her on Twitter at

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